Report: Has The Pandemic Caused A Rise In Sex Crimes?

On July 3, 2020, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres expressed concerned about skyrocketing reports of gender-based violence the Covid-19 lockdowns- what he termed the “shadow pandemic.” In Nigeria, more than 700 cases of sexual assault were reported between January and May 2020, with numbers surging after a temporary lockdown began in March, according to Nigerian police.

As the world is being consumed with talks of the global pandemic and subsequent lockdowns imposed in some countries, a second, silent pandemic persists. Evidence has shown the increase in the rate of sexual violence all over the world associated with stress and the fear of helplessness associated with emergencies.

In a 2005 report by the World Health Organization (WHO), there is a pattern of gender differentiation at all levels of a disaster or pandemic process: exposure to risk, risk perception, preparedness, response, physical impact, psychological impact, recovery and reconstruction.

However, the rise in sexual violence against women has shown that the governments around the world have failed to prepare for the uptick caused by the pandemic.

The Rate Of Sexual Violence In Nigeria During The Pandemic

The government declared a nationwide state of emergency on rape in June after a series of harrowing crimes. On May 27, 2020, Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, a 22-year-old microbiology student, brutally raped and beaten in a church in Benin City. She later died from her injuries. Days later, another student, 18-year-old Barakat Bello, was gang-raped and stabbed to death during a robbery at her home in Ibadan. On June 4, four masked men raped a 12-year-old girl in her home in Lagos.

The incidents sparked online outrage and nationwide street protests. “I am particularly upset at recent incidents of rape, especially of very young girls,” President Muhammadu Buhari said on June 12, asking all states to adopt the existing Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, which demands a minimum of a 12-year sentence for rape and create a sex offender register. In July, the Nigerian Senate passed a bill that, if enacted, would protect students from sexual harassment at universities. In Kaduna, in north-central Nigeria, tougher laws were enacted in September which prescribes castration and execution of convicted child rapists.

The Number of Reported Cases Of Gender Based Violence From 23 States in Nigeria From March to April 2020. Sourced from: Federal and States Ministry of Women Affairs

The Rate Of Sexual Violence In India During The Pandemic

According to Delhi police, at least 1,241 rape cases were reported in 2020 and 1,527 cases of molestation were reported. Analysis of rape cases shows that accused were known to the victims in 97.66% cases while rapes by strangers stood at 2.34%.

 In 2020, a 37-year-old woman was abducted, beaten and gang-raped by a group of hoodlums in Noakhali (south-eastern Bangladesh). The gruesome act was videotaped while the woman begged and pleaded with them to let her go.

Another victim – a newly-married woman was raped while visiting a college campus in Sylhet (north-eastern BD) with her husband. A group of thugs spotted them and robbed them first, and then took the woman in a room of a student hostel, tied up the husband, and raped her in front of him.

An underaged indigenous girl was raped inside a Catholic Church in Rajshahi (mid-western BD). She went missing after she went cutting grass for the cattle.

Rate Of Rape Cases In The United Kingdom

Domestic abuse and rape have increased across the UK and the world during the coronavirus lockdowns, organisations have reported.

The United Nations called the global increase in domestic abuse a “shadow pandemic”. In the UK, charities say there has been a surge in demand for services, while police forces have also recorded a rise in incidents.

Another report showed that 66,045 people accessed Rape Crisis services between late 2019 and 2020 and Rape Crisis Centres across the Rape Crisis England & Wales network handled 194,881 online and telephone helpline contacts in 2020 –  a 5% increase compared to 2018-19.

Patsy Nwogu

Reporting on data-driven featured stories and investigations.

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